Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Stress-Free Meals Part II

C'mon, it's not even a full baby carrot stick.

It's not like me to admit defeat, so I won't. I will say, though, that after following all the advice that I gave in my post Stress-Free Meal Times, I have had to make some adjustments. I hope that it worked for some. I know not all parents are as lucky as I am to have two stubborn little girls, and I did have some success with it, but if it's not going anywhere and you're sending your kids to bed hungry, it's time to make a change.
Food is one of the power struggles with my girls. I know that, little as they are, they have few things they can really control, and what goes in and out of their bodies (and when) is one of them, so naturally they hold on to it with an iron fist. My goal is to disengage from that power struggle. I would like them to eat the meals that I have prepared. Of course, I'd like them to eat vegetables. I'd like to be able to go out to dinner with them and have them find something on the menu that they like. But what my real agenda should be is to raise healthy eaters. That means not teaching them that sweets are a reward. That means not making meal times stressful. That means not forcing them to eat when they may not be hungry. That means taking myself out of the equation.
So I've taken to serving food family-style. Three and five are tough ages in terms of pickiness because many children have a fear of new foods during that time and growth may not be rapid, so their appetite may have slowed down, which only makes it easier for them to reject new foods.

The wine is never far away. 
So what I've taken to doing now is including foods that my kids enjoy that I am okay with them filling up on. Their choices are limited but not terrible in terms of healthiness. For us, this is usually eggs, strawberries, Applegate ham or turkey (or Applegate chicken nuggets), baby spinach leaves, carrots, bananas, grapes, or almonds. In one of the bowls, I put some of the food that I have made. I admit, it usually doesn't even make it onto their plate, but I encourage it. I'll say that they don't even have to eat it, although I think they should give it a try. If they want to just touch it or smell it, that works, too.
 Can you find the wine?
Another thing I've tried is to put a little bit of dessert on the side of their plate, so that I am not tempted to offer it as a bribe. If they don't want to eat their dinner, I don't make them. I will offer them something to eat before they go to bed. It may not be my preference, but it won't be junk food and it will help ease bedtime, which will make mornings go more smoothly. I might offer a banana or toast with peanut butter. I also don't allow them to say "yuck" at the table. I was hearing a lot of that, so if I hear it, they have to get down. They don't have to go to their room or into a time out, they just have to get down. I admit that at first this felt like a punishment for me, because I want us all to sit down at the dinner table together, but, at least with my girls, they don't want to get down, whether it's FOMO or just that they really enjoy spending time with us, so they have stopped using that word for the most part. Every once in a while, they still need to be reminded.
Again, much like the last post I wrote on picky eating, I wouldn't say that it's "working" in terms of them deciding that they like my food and will eat whatever I cook now. I think what really matters is that it "works" in terms of them enjoying meals with the family, not associating anxiety with food, feeling like they have some control, and having healthy eating practices.
Only time will tell if they become more adventurous eaters or what exactly their relationship with food will be, but I am hopeful that I am giving them a good start. 


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